YOU are aware that on January 17, 2017, two comrades of the Bhangor anti powergrid movement — Mafizul Khan and Alamgir Mollah — were martyred when the police and hoodlums accompanying the police opened fire. Another villager and activist of the movement, Akbar Mollah, was also severely injured in police firing. The Trinamool government of West Bengal announced a paltry compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the families of the martyrs, but they turned down this treacherous offer with dignity. After the incident, the police unleashed a reign of terror on the villages that were involved in the movement. There were mass arrests, abductions and numerous false cases against scores of villagers. As a result, we could not help the families of the martyrs to a great extent. However, the unflagging spirit of the people kept the anti powergrid movement going in spite of ruthless state terror and non state atrocities. Now, we have been able to tide over that crisis period to a large extent. The democratic movement of the people has been able to withstand the state terror. We have also initiated a Martyr’s Fund to help the families of the martyrs and set up a Martyr’s Column. We will observe Martyr’s Day on January 17, 2018. On that day we will also set up the Martyr’s Column and hand over financial help to the families of the martyrs.
We appeal to all persons and organisations who support the Bhangor movement to donate to the Martyr’s Fund before January 17 and also participate in the Martyr’s Day programme in Bhangor on that day.
Please send your donation to the following account:
Md Enamul Haque
State Bank of India, Lauhati Branch
AC No. 20088159924
IFSC Code. SBIN0006208
Abdul Aziz Mallik
Committee for the Protection of Land Livelihood Ecology and Environment
K N Ramachandran
CPI (ML) Red Star
Instead of addressing the concerns of the Supreme Court, which required that funds meant for Compensatory afforestation be used for the purpose they were generated, the Government in its wisdom used the ploy of huge unspent funds under CAMPA (estimates put it at around Rs 50,000 crores) to hurriedly pass CAF ( Compensatory Afforestation Fund) last year. However till now the Act has not been notified (pending the guidelines), informed sources point to serious contradictions within the Act itself including the failure to address the concerns of the Supreme Court as one of the major reasons for the delay.
In practice, CAMPA fund legitimises forest diversion and provides a monetary excuse for Forest and biodiversity loss caring a whit for the loss of livelihood opportunities of the local community. There is no credible information about what has been planted up under CAMPA and where.
The proposition that forest cover is increasing is a hoax. The State of Forest reports a forest cover of 21.34% including tea, coffee and rubber plantations (green cover of more than 10% on an area of .5 has is recorded). Forest Land on the other hand is 23.41%. Plantations are not forests. There is an International movement against monocultures. In Uttrakhand for instance the replacement of broad leaved oak forests with pine has resulted in severe damage to the ecology affecting the livelihood of livestock owners and impacting the perenniality of the streams and springs in the region. Frequent landslides and forest fires are among the other impacts as well.
CAMPA is meant to compensate for loss of forests but it is also being shown as a mechanism to increase the forest cover of this country. The fund of $6 b is being used by the Government to show its financial commitment for GIM and RED + as well. In its new avatar, CAF is a violation of FRA. CAMPA money will be used for relocation of people from Tiger Reserves. VSS under JFM is being equated with gram sabha and FD muscle power and money power is being used against the people (arms and ammunition are being procured in the name of Wild life protection Act). In short FRA is to be systematically undermined.
In the whole process Natural Capital is sought to be taken over and goods and services from the forest traded on the International market. The Kanchan Chopra report for transferring funds to the village communities has been ignored. Diversion of forest is against Section 39 B of the Forest Conservation Act 1980. The related compensatory activity has not taken place; it is proving to be a game to deal with the ‘politics of sustainability’.
Even though India is a signatory to UNRIP (United Nations Rights of Indigenous people’s) and FPIC (Free Prior Informed Consent), the accountability for implementation is at the Nation level due to sovereignty issues. Sub Nationality questions are not addressed.
Case studies from Odisha highlight the atrocities being unleashed on the forest dwellers as a result of CAMPA (in one case a pregnant woman lost her child as a result of the shock of being dragged out of the forest). A case study from Gujarat shows how Surat is facing floods every year due to the destruction of the mangroves, choking of the estuary at the mouth of the Tapti and the resultant ingress of seawater into Surat. The barrage on Tapti on the other hand prevents the flood waters reaching the sea and bathes Surat instead! Compensatory forest land asked for the cutting of the mangrove forests to make way for Hazira SEZ expansion was given in Porbandar. Since there were no mud flats there to hold the plants, every year plantation gets washed into the sea.
The concept that ‘development is necessary’, and hence forest diversion a corollary is counter factual. Experiences from across the country show that recent advances in renewable energy make it possible to go for a decentralised development paradigm which does not require the kind of funds that make it necessary to roll out the red carpet to Corporate investors and provide them land on a platter.
The need of the hour is to create awareness across the country about the detrimental effects of CAMPA and its new avatar CAF. The adhoc committee of the Adivasi Bharat Mahasabha studied the draft prepared by the Akhil Bharatiya Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, and has decided to issue it as a call to all forest dwellers and forest dependent communities to rise as one to force govt. to withdraw this anti people law.
Adhoc Committee, Adivasi Bharat Mahasabha n
Comrade Kandan was very much active and known to all in his locality as a political activist for a long and he was working in open and never gone absconding. Hence it is very much conspicuous that he got arrested after such a long time, i.e., 8 years after registering a case. He was very much present in open in his locality. Hence the question of absconding is not at all arising.
He was a key person in organising different people’s movement. Recently he had organised the villagers against the sale of plastic and thermocol made plates and dishes for serving food instead of SAL leaves (sal patha). Making Plates and Dishes for serving food is a lively hood and cottage industry of the local people in the Jungal Mahal Area. Most of the women in the area is dependent on this Industry. This movement has irked the authority.
Moreover, the party CPI(ML) Red Star, which he belongs to, is leading a much Known Peasants movement in West Bengal in Bhangor against a Central Government Power Grid Project. The West Bengal Government had already arrested and dumped several false cases including UAPA on its fore front leaders.
It is also a matter of doubt about the authenticity of the case as the local police was pleading for 7 days police custody of Kandan Mandi in the Khatra Sub-division Court though there was no any reference of his name. Even in the FIR, which was prepared by an ASI, there is no mention of Kandan Mandi in the preparation of Land Mine Explosion. Only there was a mention of his presence in a secret meeting.
It is also to be noted that the arrest of Kandan Mandi is taken place at a time when the State is going to the Local Body Elections soon where CPI (ML) Red Star will also be a contestant party which is gaining ground among the villagers for their participation in the people’s struggles. Mamata Government is trying all out to make the Panchayat Elections a farce so there would be no opposition to which CPI(ML) Red Star is a threat.
This arrest generated anger and discontent among the people are widening against the TMC Government. It is also to be noted that the original case was initiated by the Left Front Government during their tenure and now the Mamata led TMC Government is pursuing. They have started to protest against the illegal arrest and demanded the unconditional release of Comrade Kandan Mandi. The West Bengal State Committee of CPI (ML) Red Star strongly condemns the arrest and demands the immediate and unconditional release of Comrade Kandan Mandi and to withdraw the all the cases against him.
On 23rd morning I was told I will be taken by noon. In the afternoon again I was blind folded and taken in a vehicle. After almost 3 hours it stopped and somebody claiming himself as the chief of Central Intelligence in WB told me that according to instructions from top he is acting and I have to go back to Delhi forthwith. When asked whether it is an order to extern me and what authority he has to impose it he had no answer. He arranged a ticket in Sealdah to New Delhi Rajdhani and his goons looking followers opened my eyes and put me in the Rajadhani at nearby Durgapur station and gave me my suitcase. His men had taken away Rs 3000 from the bag and did not give me the mobile. In this way they ensured that I cannot return to Kolkata for the scheduled 24th January visit to Bhangar and press conference at Kolkata. As the ticket itself was faulty it was with the help of the train staff I could reach Delhi by 11.30 am.
The whole episode of kidnapping and detention of the general secretary of a party which is working openly at all India level is a naked repetition of what the central and state governments are doing at Banghar in South 24 Parganas. I am not sure whether these criminals who detained and caused such mental harassment to me are from Central Intelligence, WB state intelligence or the goondas of the ex MLA of TMC, Arabul Islam, and the present MLA and minister in the TMC cabinet, Abdur Razak Mollah, ex land revenue minister in LF government during Nandigram movement, or a combination of all these who staged it. It was a naked fascist act to suffocate my voice, to prevent me from going to the villages to declare solidarity with the affected people and families of the two martyrs, and to address the media at Kolkata explaining the details of the Bhangar movement.
When my abductors alleged that we are in league with Maoists I explained to them how we are building this movement keeping both CPI(M) and CPI(Maoist) away. I explained them how the Committee to Save Land, Livelihood and Environment is leading the peaceful democratic movement and it was the police-goonda combine changed the atmosphere on 15-16 January by attacking the villagers and women, leading to police firing on 17th and people’s resistance against the state terror. It is clear that the authorities are going against the law which forbids building of power grids through thickly populated areas and trying to justify it through cock and bull stories.
While our party comrades are actively involved in the Committee a broad forum of all struggling left and democratic forces is being organized in which students, intellectuals and scientists are also participating. The developments in Bhangar shows that Mamta Banerjee who came to power using the Singur and Nandigram movements is doing a much worse act at Bhangar and the people will not allow her to get away with it. No amount of terror can make the party leaders as well as the people subdued. We appeal to the media and all democratic forces to come forward against the state terror and attacks on the villagers of Bhangar.
GS, CPI(ML) Red Star
24 January, 2017
The Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL, a Govt. of India Enterprise and a Navaratna to boot) is constructing the Rajarhat 400/220 KV, SF6 gas insulated substation and associated 953 Km (480 Km passing through West Bengal) length of 400KV double circuit, 450MW transmission lines, which will affect scores of villages across the region. Paradoxically, though the PGCIL has named it the ‘Rajarhat substation’, it is located entirely in a different place – Bhangor – and even in a different district!
According to a notification of PGCIL, the transmission lines from this substation will be passing over 80 villages of seven districts, namely South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas, Nadia, Hooghly, Burdwan, Murshidabad and Birbhum of West Bengal, before entering the state of Jharkhand. The nine to twelve transmission lines coming out of the Rajarhat Grid will affect more than 30,000 lives in South 24 Paraganas alone.
An extremely potent greenhouse gas SF6 (Sulphur Hexafluoride, SF6) will be used in the substation and an electromagnetic field will be generated, once the transmission line becomes operative. While a significant amount of research efforts are going on internationally in finding a replacement of SF6, the gas will be used in the substation without any concern of the authorities for the danger it will pose to the people and the environment. Once a transmission line is laid, the farmer has to forfeit most of his rights over his land, crop and plantation. In the name of preventing damages due to ‘flash overs’, maintenances, of line the power line installing company has unfettered rights of cutting the tall trees, entering into the fields and thereby damaging standing crops, year after year. Moreover, the transmission-line support structures and lines are laid near and within the ponds, where the farmers cultivate fish. The support structure within or near to the ponds will change its ecology, making them unfit for fish cultivation. The electromagnetic field will also change the growth and breeding pattern of fishes, for which fishermen will suffer substantial losses. For installation of support structure, the ponds, fish embankments (bheries) have to be dried and the machine and human activity that will go on in installation of towers will grievously damage the soil bed, swamp and under-bed micro-organisms, making them unfit for fish cultivation. The electromagnetic field will also affect the magnetic alignment ability of fish and disrupt their movement.
Since 2015, from the day work on forcibly acquired land initiated, people were first assured that a small power house would be built in the area to cater local demand. Later, people learnt that the project was being planned at a much massive scale and it was not a power house as they were made to believe, but a 400KVpower grid. Things came to a pass when PGCIL started installing transmission line support structures (towers) on their fields without taking their consent, without following the Guidelines for payment of Compensation towards damages in regard to Right of Way for transmission line, Ministry of Power, Government of India, 15.10.2015. When people resisted such constructions on their fields, PGCIL started paying a pittance to some, ignoring the aforementioned guidelines. In this matter the local administration and ruling political party leadership too worked in tandem with PGCIL.
The people of the area, who stand to lose not only their land and livelihood but also fear complete destruction of the ecology, have organized themselves under the leadership of the Jomi, Jibika, Bastutantra O Poribesh Raksha Committee against the power grid and administration. They have come out on the streets in protest. They have submitted a memorandum to the SDO recording their opposition to the operation of the power grid in the midst of fertile agricultural land. The PGCI authorities promised to meet them and hear their grievances, but on the scheduled day, when the people of the area arrived at the PGCI office, the officers had already locked up the office and left, afraid to meet the people. They have also filed complaints with the local Kashipur PS, under whose jurisdiction the area is, against forcible construction of towers on their land by PGCIL. On December 22, 2016 they brought Kolkata roads to a standstill by a massive 10,000-strong rally. A memorandum was handed over to the Governor.
As is evident, the PGCIL has gone about this project in an absolutely high-handed manner, refusing to talk to the affected farmers and displaying an utter lack of transparency. The government and administration too have paid scant heed to the farmers’ grievances. Despite the much-vaunted policy of the government to not acquire agricultural land for industry, in villages across Bhangar extremely fertile agricultural land has been acquired for the substation and the transmission towers. This has been done without the consent of the farmers, often by the use of terror tactics.
The Jomi, Jibika, Bastutantra O Poribesh Raksha Committee, which was formed to protest the
construction of the power grid substation and the destruction of the ecology it entails, has appealed to the government and administration for dialogue, but in vain. Now, since peaceful demonstrations by tens of thousands of villagers and humble petitions seem to have had no effect, the Committee has been compelled to announce an indefinite road blockade on January 11 demanding immediate cessation of work on the substation and withdrawal of the project from the area.
The Committee hopes that all print and electronic media will stand beside the farmers and fishermen of Bhangor and broadcast the news of their impending eviction from land and livelihood as well as the gritty protest that promises to foil the designs of the authorities to destroy vast tracts of fertile land and water bodies rich in aquatic life.
(Statement issued at Press conference at Kolkata by comrade Alik Chakraborty, Spokesperson of "Jomi, Jibika, Bastutantra O Poribesh Raksha Committee" on 5th January 2017)
The State Government is unleashing terror in the entire state by arresting the people's leaders, activists of different democratic organisations and political parties who are acting using the existing democratic and constitutional rights. The State Government and the police and executive under it are denying the constitutional rights and democratic functioning of the political parties by haunting and arresting their workers and leaders, and raiding their offices and residences as well as harassing their relatives. On 4th February com. Sharmistha Choudhury who is remanded to police custody from 25th January was taken to her relatives house in Salt Lake to harass them and then taken to her residence at Kharda from where they took away her computer and many books and papers. It is reported that the police is planning to raid the houses of other leaders also.
The Central Committee demands that the state government restrain from all such nefarious activities, create a democratic atmosphere at once, and arrange to hold dialogue with the Jomi, Jeebika, Vaasthuthahntro, O Parivesh Raksha Committee ( Committee for the Protection of Land, Livelihood, Biodiversity and Environment Committee) which is representing the struggling people of Bhangar.
We request to all the democratic forces of the country and to all political parties to come forward and register their protest against the fascist terror unleashed by the Mamta government in the sate to suppress the people’s movement at Bhangar and its leadership.
CPI(ML) Red Star
5th February 2017
The central budget combined with the railway budget presented by the finance minister Jaitly today for 2017-18 has made the corporate forces extremely happy as their initial responses reveal. Though the biggest financial operation taken up during the last three months was the demonetization of the 86% of the currency in circulation, which has devastated vast masses and decelerated the economy of the vast majority, no analysis, even a report of how much of the currency was returned, is given. On the whole, the announcement of opening doors more widely for the FDI, removal of all curbs for FDI-FII inflow through tax haven routes, all round promotion of digitization, public-private-participation (PPP) in more areas, privatization of the remaining public sector enterprises more speedily etc have gladdened the corporate class and the MNCs. All hitherto neo-liberal benefits for the private sector are going to be further enhanced. At the same time no mention of what happened to the 20 million new jobs every year by Modi, especially when demonetization has destroyed more than 2 million employments during two months! No enhancement of funds for education and health. There is going to be total cut down of all welfare policies and subsidies in the name of providing Rs. 1000 as Universal Basic Income (UBI) alternative for targeted 80%! But the banks are allowed to write off more bad loans of the corporate as Non Performing Assets (NPA). At the same time no plans for getting backs these bad loans of the elite class. As far as Railways are concerned, though the privatization started by the UPA government and speeded up during last two years under Modi have led to sharp increase in major train accidents, they are not even mentioned; on the contrary there are enough hints that the privatization will be speeded up in all areas. At a glance, this central budget will intensify privatization- commercialization-elitization of all sectors, and impoverization of the masses. Modi intends to impose these ultra rightist economic moves using the sledge hammer of communalization! Modinomics is to serve the Trumponomics!
K N Ramachandran
CPI (ML) Red Star